Georgetown center Henry Sims is 6-foot-10. The Hoyas also have a handful of other players standing at least 6-foot-8.
So, when the Syracuse Orange host the Hoyas tonight at the Carrier Dome, there will be more big bodies for Georgetown to throw at center Fab Melo than the St. John’s crew were able to muster up Saturday. The Red Storm had just two players who measure at 6-foot-8 and none taller than that.
So, maybe Melo’s return to the lineup Saturday was a bit skewed. But Syracuse’s center showed he was head and shoulders above the rest in both stature and production.
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Fab made five of his six shots from the floor and tallied a career-high 14 points, a modest three rebounds, and two blocked shots. But Melo was the heartbeat in what turned out to be a 95-70 dunk fest of an afternoon. Syracuse was whole again and all that happened while Melo was tending to academia was forgotten.
If there were doubts as to whether Melo would have any rust or lack any energy in his return, those thoughts were quickly squashed. In the midst of Syracuse’s run in the first half to take control of the game, Melo provided two dunks and both of his blocks. The 16-3 run to start the second half? Melo was in the center of that with six more points.
It was in this very same space two weeks ago that I suggested that, while the Orange certainly missed Melo’s presence, his absence was noticed more in the intangibles than in the loss of statistics. To me, the reason Syracuse struggled during Melo’s hiatus was more a result of poor shooting and a lull in overall performance.
The tale of the tape:
In Syracuse’s three games without Fab, the Orange averaged 60.3 points per game, shot 43 percent from the field, were outrebounded by 28, and averaged five blocks per game.
In his return, the Orange scored 95 points (the most in any conference game this year), shot almost 56 percent, won the rebound war by 13, and blocked five shots.
On the season, the team averages a tick over 78 points per game, is shooting 48 percent, is outrebounding its opponents by just .2 rebounds a game, and is averaging over seven blocks a contest.
The two things that stick out to me are the lack of scoring and getting manhandled on the boards. I can quantify those two things, one (rebounding) in which Melo surely affects and the other (scoring) in which Melo can help, but is not relied upon in order to have success.
But, in watching the St. John’s game, did I underestimate the intangible effect Melo has had this season? With him back, guys were flying around, jumping through the roof, creating highlight dunks, and smiling from ear to ear. The heartbeat was back.
I’ll chalk part of that up to the opponent, though. The 11th-ranked Hoyas will present far more problems than the wet-behind-the-ears Red Storm. Georgetown reigns supreme over the Johnnies in height, size, talent, and experience.
So, when Syracuse takes the court again, it will have its biggest test in a month. Whether Melo supplies the bulk of the intangibles or not, the Orange will need as much as they can get to take down the Hoyas in the latest installment of the rivalry.